Dan Frommer is a smart dude. Smart enough to leave Silicon Valley Insider before it became Business Insider. Seriously, the guy knows his stuff, which you can read on his own site, SplatF and ReadWriteWeb, where he serves as Editor at Large. He posted something on SplatF today about the peoples’ desire to see HBO Go be available as a stand-alone offering, a desire that has spawned a cottage industry of bitching about it and most recently the TakeMyMoneyHBO site.
His piece, which gives several good reasons why HBO would never consider doing something like this, lists 4 items, all of which I agree with. But it’s the first sentence of item #1 which is the reason, something that I mentioned in Part 2 of my musings about what it would take for Apple to make major headway into the television content market:
When you consider HBO parent Time Warner’s relationships with Comcast, DirecTV, Verizon, etc., it’s not just HBO GO at stake, it’s the entire company.
I don’t even think you need to read past “HBO parent Time Warner’s” to find your reason. If Time Warner wanted to offer HBO directly to consumers, I’d be hard-pressed to think that any relationship would preclude them from doing so – if these relationships didn’t include Comcast, who also happens to be a major cable provider and network owner. Time Warner doesn’t want to sell you HBO because Time Warner wouldn’t be able to sell you the basic/standard cable package that underlies it. Unbundling its own properties would lead to fewer subscribers (I’d probably be one of them). Even if it were a financial windfall, Comcast would lose subscribers too, which would lead them ice Time Warner’s networks on their platform.
This is exactly why the practice of allowing cable companies to buy networks is bullshit. Time Warner and Comcast own more than half of the stations on cable. There is precisely zero incentive for them to depreciate their properties by selling them to consumers individually. Even if people were willing to pay $50 a month for the privilege of subscribing only to HBO, it would never happen.